Profile No. 1

Baltimore Comprehensive Communities Program -- Baltimore, MD

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
A program of comprehensive gun violence reduction strategies; Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Program Goal:
To reduce violent crime by building the community's capacity to implement a comprehensive strategy to address the factors that contribute to violent crime -- guns and drugs.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy: None.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
High-crime areas of Baltimore, MD.

Evaluated by:
Urban Institute, Washington, DC; BOTEC, Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
A. Elizabeth Griffith
Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice 10 South Street, Suite 400
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410­396­4370

George Kelling
BOTEC Analysis Corporation
767 Concord Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Years of Operation:

In 1991, the problem of gun violence, drugs, and crime had reached crisis levels in many Baltimore neighborhoods. The Boyd Booth area, for example, had one of the largest open-air drug markets and accounted for many of the city's homicides. The residential population was dwindling, and entire blocks of homes had been abandoned by their owners, had fallen into disrepair, and had been appropriated by drug dealers and addicts.

Copyright © 1998 PhotoDisc, Inc.

Two local nonprofit organizations, the Community Law Center (CLC) and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), began working with local residents to address neighborhood problems and help restore safety and a sense of community. CLC helped neighborhood associations and other community groups file civil litigation based on the Drug Nuisance Abatement Law, the Community Bill of Rights, vacant house receivership law, and the Self-Help Abatement of Nuisances Law (a common law dating back to the 16th century) to address drug and crime problems.

At the same time that CLC was providing representation, technical assistance, and legal education to community groups, CPHA was helping community residents organize to address drug, crime, and housing problems. CPHA showed residents how to gradually reclaim their neighborhoods using a variety of tactics, such as holding vigils on drug corners, hosting community fairs on abandoned lots, painting murals on newly boarded houses, and launching other "street actions."

Comprehensive Communities Program

By the spring of 1995, the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice had received a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to become 1 of 16 national sites participating in the Comprehensive Communities Program (CCP). The work being done by CLC and CPHA was well known, and the mayor's office asked the groups to expand and implement Baltimore's CCP initiative in several core communities: Boyd Booth, Carrollton Ridge, Fayette Street, Franklin Square, Harlem Park, and New Southwest. Dozens of other areas were identified as apprentice sites that would receive more limited assistance (e.g., training and the services of a pro bono attorney) to develop their own comprehensive crime prevention strategies.

Building community capacity is absolutely key. You have to begin by identifying the people and institutions in the local neighborhoods who have a stake in the community and really want to address the neighborhood's problems. And then you have to give them the resources that they need to be successful -- and that's where the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice comes in. We are able to bring together all the key agencies -- law enforcement, housing, community organizers, youth, legal advisers -- and marshall their resources in a focused way to have the biggest impact on solving the neighborhood's problems. We then build the relationships between these groups to sustain the effort over the long haul.

--Betsi Griffith
Baltimore, MD, Mayor's Coordinating
Council on Criminal Justice

The first-year planning grant allowed the partners to establish a solid foundation for the initiative by recruiting and training local leadership, working with residents to identify priority problems, mapping out strategies, and establishing relationships with key groups such as law enforcement and nearby schools. The nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center was brought on as a partner to help residents reduce drug dealing and other criminal activities by changing the physical environment. The center's approach, entitled Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), encourages residents to reclaim public spaces such as parks and playgrounds that have been taken over by drug dealers, prostitutes, and others because they are poorly maintained or are not used by law-abiding citizens. Typical CPTED activities include the establishment of community gardens on vacant lots or staking "ownership" of street corners by having vigils.

Full implementation of Baltimore's CCP initiative began in 1995. Implementation funding was provided not only through a Bureau of Justice Assistance discretionary grant, but also through grants from the Merck Foundation, the Abell Foundation, two Federal block grant programs (Byrne Memorial Block Grant Funds and Local Law Enforcement Block Grants), and in-kind contributions from the city's Department of Public Works and the police. The CCP initiative has a number of critical program elements, which follow.

Community-based anticrime strategies

CCP sites use six strategies to reduce crime in target areas:

  • Denying the drug trade and other criminal activities the space in which to operate by using CPTED and other measures to turn these spaces into viable community assets
  • Maximizing the accountability and participation of all stakeholders in the community by building public support for crime reduction and increasing stakeholder responsibility for and participation in efforts to reduce crime.

  • Removing the sense of impunity by working with the criminal justice system to increase the likelihood of arrest, prosecution, and sanctions and providing for community input at all stages of the criminal justice process.

  • Expressing community intolerance for drug dealing and reclaiming public spaces, establishing citizen patrol groups, and holding street actions such as marches or vigils.

  • Providing positive alternatives for children and adults (particularly recovering addicts) through youth programs, employment, and other alternatives to drug-related activities and developing support systems for recovering addicts.

  • Developing community capacity to sustain the effort by organizing the community, developing local leaders, and strengthening community organizations. Community capacity includes the following:

    • A committed core of residents. Community change and improvement efforts can be successful only if there is resident involvement and leadership. Indeed, one of the criteria for selecting CCP sites was the existence of local organizations whose members were willing to play an active role in identifying problems and implementing solutions.

    • Community organizing. Neighborhoods in crisis face enormous obstacles and need high levels of support, especially during the early stages, to launch and sustain effective community campaigns. A paid community organizer is crucial in order to maximize the effectiveness of community efforts.

    • Community policing. In the CCP sites, full-time community foot patrol officers were freed from responding to calls for service and were assigned to work closely with residents to solve local problems. These officers attended meetings, became acquainted with residents, and targeted their law enforcement to resident-identified problems.

    • Legal assistance. CLC gave residents access to a number of civil legal remedies in their battles against crime, drugs, and social decay. Laws regarding drug nuisances, house receivership, self-help nuisance abatement, and housing and building code violations became part of the community's legal arsenal. CLC also provided legal assistance with organizational development issues such as drafting bylaws and articles of incorporation.

    • Capacity to address physical problems and to provide community-based alternatives to incarceration. Small-scale, physical improvements to a neighborhood for example, turning a local dumping ground into a community garden in the course of a weekend are enormously important to communities in crisis. In addition to adding to the area's visible community assets, these incremental neighborhood improvements increase community spirit and build support for future residential action. Recovering addicts and other nonviolent ex-offenders can become important resources for this effort, performing community service as members of work crews that build communities ravaged by the kinds of activities in which they were once engaged.

    • Other support services. Each CCP site has developed additional programs and services that are considered necessary to the success of the initiative. For example, four sites have worked with the Alternative Sentencing Unit to establish formal and informal systems to support recovering addicts. Other CCP sites have tried to secure additional resources for youth and have either established links with existing agencies or developed afterschool and summer programs of their own. Faith organizations like the Union Methodist Memorial Church also have been active in some CCP areas, providing meeting space, transportation, and support services for recovering substance abusers.

By the end of 1996, dramatic decreases in crime were being reported in CCP areas. In Boyd Booth, the pilot site, violent crimes were reduced by more than 50 percent between 1993 and 1996. There also was evidence of increased law enforcement activity: the number of arrests doubled or tripled in many core communities during that same period.

HotSpot Communities

In March 1997, in large part because of the success of the CCP effort, the Governor of Maryland launched the HotSpot Communities (HSC) Initiative as the next generation of community-based crime prevention. HSC incorporated all the main features of CCP and added several others. HSC sites had to include the following core elements:

  • Community mobilization.

  • Community policing.

  • Community probation (including intensive supervision of adult and juvenile probationers and parolees through Operation Spotlight).

  • Community maintenance (use of city code enforcement, offender work crews, civil legal remedies, and rapid response to "broken windows").

  • Youth prevention (afterschool programs, truancy and curfew enforcement, partnerships with schools and law-enforcement agencies).

  • Local coordination of the Baltimore CCP/HSC program by The Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice.

In addition, HSC areas could adopt six enhancing elements: community prosecution, juvenile intervention, CPTED measures, victim outreach and assistance, community support for addiction recovery, or housing and business revitalization.

The Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention, which partially funds the CCP/HSC program, invited every county and municipality in the State to apply for HSC funding. Two criteria were used to select the 36 communities that are now part of HSC: a concentration of fear and crime, based on police statistics for the targeted areas, and a community with a core group of committed residents and the capacity to launch and sustain the effort. Six hotspot communities were designated in the city of Baltimore, including several CCP sites.

The six hotspot communities in Baltimore are coordinated by The Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice. An Oversight Committee comprising agency heads and high-level representatives of all the institutions involved in HSC (i.e., the Department of Public Works, the Police Commissioner, and the Department of Parole and Probation) is responsible for overall program monitoring. A Sustainment/Evaluation Committee, composed of all the members of the Supervisory Teams discussed below, assesses the effectiveness of CCP/HSC programs and continually reviews and modifies goals and objectives.

A Supervisory Team, including senior staff from each of the agencies directly involved in HSC activities, meets quarterly and "creates a forum where the policies and goals of each agency, nonprofit, and service provider are integrated with the strategy in each area targeted for programming." The Supervisory Team is composed of work groups that focus on the core HSC elements: community policing/community probation, community organizing, legal issues, community maintenance, and youth.

Finally, Neighborhood Safety Teams established in each of the HSC areas meet at least monthly to make specific decisions affecting communities. For example, Neighborhood Safety Teams decide which corners or streets will be targeted by community policing patrols, which houses should be the focus of a Drug Nuisance Abatement case, and what kinds of programs should be developed for youth to keep them free of drugs and crime. Each Neighborhood Safety Team has a community organizer, a police officer, a parole/probation agent, a community attorney, one or more community residents, and other representatives as needed.

The progression from the Comprehensive Communities Program to HotSpots represents the realization that long-term community change requires a systemwide approach. The work of separate agencies -- arresting lawbreakers, prosecuting criminals, cleaning up neighborhoods, monitoring probationers -- should coalesce under the single goal of creating a safe community. The police department must work with parole and probation officers to target career criminals, the housing department must work with the State's Attorney to prosecute absentee slumlords, and all agencies must work with the community residents -- who know best what their problems are and how to solve them.

The philosophy of comprehensiveness has influenced the way CCP/HSC is funded and managed. The $10.5 million that funds the statewide, 3-year initiative comes from many sources, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Byrne Memorial Block Grants and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. However, HSC sites do not submit separate applications for each part of the funding mosaic that is relevant to their work, nor do they have to prepare separate progress and evaluation reports to meet the varying requirements of the funding agencies. Instead, The Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention has developed a unified reporting form for HSC sites, which disaggregates the information provided by the target communities and presents relevant data to the array of funders. The Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention also has changed its own internal operations in response to this initiative.

CCP/HSC coordination

The goal of CCP/HSC is institutionalization of its work. The group has established partnerships with 24 Federal, State, and local agencies, and it is hoped that the activities initiated under this special funding project will become part of the core functions of the participating groups. There is some evidence that this has begun to take place. For example, the Baltimore Police Department has implemented a system for the exchange of intelligence between the community foot patrol officers and members of other specialized units, and each now supports the work of the other. The State's Attorney's Office established the Firearms Investigation/Violence Division in 1997 to allow for vertical prosecution of cases involving nonfatal shootings where the defendant had a history of firearm violence and handgun violations. Individuals from HSC's are one of the offender groups being targeted through this division. In addition, the division targets individuals who are eligible for DISARM, a project of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland (see profile 36).

Law enforcement activities in CCP/HSC sites also are coordinated through Baltimore's Violent Crimes Division and its Youth Violence Strike Force (see profile 18). The two law enforcement programs work to reduce firearm-related offenses and may target specific individuals (such as gang members), geographic areas (high-crime corners and other hotspots), crimes (drug-related shootings), or weapons. Representatives from probation and parole departments, the courts, school police forces, and each of HSC's Neighborhood Safety Teams serve as liaisons to the Violent Crimes Division and the Youth Violence Strike Force, helping them to determine enforcement priorities.

Another CCP/HSC partner is the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which has supported the work of CCP/HSC by tripling the number of code violations issued by housing inspectors to close down buildings suspected of drug or gang activity. The Mayor also has established nine Neighborhood Service Centers (one in each police district) as a way to bring city services to the local level and make them more responsive to neighborhood needs. The Neighborhood Service Centers contain branch offices of all city government agencies -- from housing and health inspectors, to human service workers, to business assistance coordinators. Two public elementary schools and a local recreation center also are CCP/HSC partners, providing youth programs in some of the targeted neighborhoods.

Maryland's Department of Parole and Probation and the Department of Juvenile Justice have hired several parole and probation officers to target medium- and high-risk offenders in CCP/HSC neighborhoods, and the Federal Probation Office also has assigned one agent to each site. Among the initiative's 10 nonprofit partners is Bon Secours Hospital, the largest employer in one of the CCP/HSC communities. The hospital has played an important role in economic and housing development first building a multimillion-dollar Community Support Center for local families and then launching a housing development initiative to renovate many vacant homes in the area.

CCP evaluation

Evaluation data on CCP/HSC is being collected in several ways. The Mayor's Coordinating Council for Criminal Justice is conducting an internal evaluation, which will provide process and outcome data on improvements in physical conditions, youth programs and services, community attitudes, and changes in community capacity. In addition, BOTEC is conducting a process evaluation for the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the University of Maryland and the Urban Institute are collecting and analyzing data on crime, violence, and drug dealing in the targeted areas, to include analysis of displacement of crime. These evaluation reports will be available in 1999.

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